Sunday, September 02, 2007

Informed Decisions

I get caught up with the goings-on back home when I chat with my mother. This happens on days when I call just to hear her voice but really have nothing specific to say. A few days ago she recounted something her friend Renuka had shared with her. Renuka, is the principal of a local high school. From meeting her a couple of times, I was struck by her erudition and progressiveness. She is a breath of fresh air in the slow, sleepy Kolkata suburb where my parents have made their post-retirement home.

A few weeks ago, Renuka was forced to have a conversation with a fourth grade teacher because her cellphone rang all day long and often she would interrupt her teaching to respond. During the course of the meeting, it became fairly obvious that the teacher in question was moonlighting as a call-girl and those phone calls were from prospective clients. Renuka had always assumed that this woman was independently wealthy judging from her expensive clothes and accessories that were quite incongruous with her meager salary.

That a woman might choose to pursue the oldest profession in the world came as no surprise to Renuka. In fact, she was genuinely concerned about the circumstances that would have led her to such a decision. Because she was completely non-judgmental, the woman was able to open up and share her story. Was there a big family depending on her to make ends meet ? Was there an ailing or invalid parent perhaps ? Renuka was looking for one compelling reason that would make prostitution the only viable option for this woman.

The point of Renuka's sharing this with my mother was that there was no such reason. The woman came from a middle class family. Her only other sibling was married several years ago and lived in Dubai. The father had a few more years to go before retirement. They owned a modest sized home. No one needed her to bring any money home.

She did not have the qualifications to get a better paying job and had no interest in furthering her education or training to get there. Her youth was available here and now to use and she preferred to do that instead of wasting opportunities that only come with youth. Had she thought about the consequences of what she was doing ? Renuka had asked. She said she was twenty four and had at least ten years to go before she stopped getting clients. What about life after thirty four ? What about marriage and children ? She said she would rather make as much money while she could because there were no guarantees in marriage anyways.

Women of my mother's and Renuka's age find it hard to accept that a woman may want to barter her body for money of her own free will without mitigating circumstances. So Renuka asks my mother Can you imagine a woman from a middle class family becoming a prostitute just because she wants things she cannot afford ? Is that how much designer wear is worth ?

It is hard equation to balance when you have fellatios performed on random strangers on one side and Gucci bags, money, gold and diamonds on the other. Back in the day, there was a abysmally poor family, terminally ill mother, alcoholic and physically abusive father and the like on the same side as all the material that provided equilibrium. It enabled everyone to feel that the poor woman was a creature of circumstance. Women don't appear to need either affirmation or excuses any more. They might feel more empowered but are not necessarily less contradicted.


ggop said...

The link you sent out was interesting read - her battles with obesity and bulimia makes me wonder about emotional abuse before getting into the business. Isn't anorexia about control? Maybe she wanted to be in complete control of whom she slept with? (Money apart)

Did you see the news snippet about the teacher in Delhi running a racket involving young school girls?

Anonymous said...

Even I can never convince myself a woman would willingly turn to prostitution. There was a movie by Basu Bhattacharya (I think Aaastha) with Rekha as the wife of Om Puri who becomes one. Mindless consumerism is one of the factors. Lack of solid parental guidance right from childhood another.Mind altering drugs mixed in soft drinks and fed to unsuspecting girls and boys are the most potent desensitizers depriving one of discerning faculties. India might be flush with money and IT power. However I find it has become spiritually and ethically bankrupt. It psittacinely repeats " cricket is our religion " and is obnoxiously besotted with bollywood movies.

In Srimad Bhagavatham Pingala(i) is one such courtesan autopilotingly soliciting clients. The very sight of Sri.Dattatreya the Sage brings about the much needed volte face in her life.